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SXSW 2015: hands-on with the Touch Easel

What happens when you cross an Android tablet with a school desk? You get something like the Touch Easel, which is here at SXSW 2015, and is launching later today on Kickstarter. The product, which is designed specifically for students with disabilities and aimed at schools and institutions, puts a large Android tablet into an adjustable school desk.

It features a 32-inch 1080p display, an optical touchscreen (which responds to almost any kind of input, up to 16 points), a 720p front-facing camera, large physical back/home buttons, and stereo speakers/mics. The glass surface is impact and liquid resistant, with a viewing angle that’s electrically adjustable up to 60 degrees.

Sonzia, the company behind Touch Easel, built the initial product around a 1.2GHz quad-core Freescale SoC with 2GB of RAM and 8GB of SD-based storage running KitKat, but the final version will ship with 4GB of RAM and a 60GB SSD, and will be powered by Lollipop. The device supports WiFi and Bluetooth, but also incorporates two NFC sensors on either side of the display.

NFC enables the use of RFID tags for students to login or for teachers to unlock access to additional (or time-limited) features, such as a rewarding game of Fruit Ninja, for example. Sonzia will supply schools and institutions with management tools and a customizable app store, and will provide its customers with a long (5-10 year) support cycle.

Check out my interview with Mihai Dinulescu (Sonzia’s founder) and remember to visit the Touch Easel Kickstarter campaign.

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